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Extending community access to technology at 3 Charlotte organizations

Behailu Academy, BLKTECHCLT, and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library are extending community access to technology through a donation of 25 Apple iMac workstations from the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens.

“The Knight School had an opportunity when we were refurbishing our iMac lab to think about where the decommissioned computers would go,” said Bruce Clark, executive director of Digital Charlotte. “Knowing the work that’s done at the Knight School and Digital Charlotte, there was a natural inclination to say, ‘let’s take these devices — that are still high-quality machines, but not the latest and greatest — and think about how we provide them to our community partners to enhance the work that they do and ultimately continue to think about our mission at the university — ‘to serve rather than to be served.’

“We were able to take 25 iMacs and partnering with three community organizations provide them with those iMacs to continue the work that they do in the community. One of the places is the Imaginon Charlotte Mecklenburg library space uptown. They were in the process of building a teen maker space that they’ve since completed. Part of that space includes 10 of our iMacs, now in service at Imaginon. They’re helping provide creative resources for these teens who come and use the space.”

Access to affordable technology by members of the community is vital, said Aubrey Hedrick of the library’s maker space initiative.

“Libraries have always been a place of community and education and that’s pretty much what maker spaces are as well,” Hedrick said. “It’s all about sharing ideas, sharing knowledge, trying new things. I think libraries are a perfect fit with maker spaces and the hope is that through the library, we can to provide accessible technologies to people that — maybe they’re interested in trying it, maybe they’ve never heard of it — but leveling the playing field, giving people a chance to try new things, learn something new.”

Behailu Academy, founded in 2011, provides a safe, creative environment that uses the arts, academic support, and community service to empower youth in urban schools.

BLKTECHCLT is Charlotte’s first and only inclusive tech hub for entrepreneurs and technologists of color, providing career development, startup resources, and connections with top recruiters in the tech community.